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Nigeria’s rulers thought it wise to cover up the heap of feces that abound in the polity to enable everyone to proceed with the proverbial feast on termites. Nigerians have since been so overtaken by the ensuing feeding frenzy that we have lost awareness or bearing of true location of the covered fecal mound. As one would expect, many feet have recently inadvertently stepped into the scattering doo-doo mound and are currently scampering about to get rid of the unpleasant smear. Biafra and the Civil War that squelched it in early infancy were hastily taken off public discourse and were regarded by past leaders of Nigeria as nothing but bad dreams that must be suppressed and expunged from national consciousness. The calculation was that, with passage of time, tragedies of that era would take care of themselves. In some pundit’s minds, paving the way for the return of exiled ex-Biafran leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, during the Second Republic, was seen as the final chapter of Biafra and all issues that surrounded its brief existence in the late 60s.

As facts are beginning to prove these days, Biafra is an albatross that shall be on the trail of Nigeria for a long time to come. The emergence of Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) drew mixed reactions from various interest groups in Nigeria, including Ndiigbo. The official government attitude was to tag this group as illegal, whatever that means. To put teeth behind this label, the federal security agencies have deployed strong-arm tactics in dealing with MASSOB and its sympathizers who are still being systematically ferreted out for liquidation or repeated extended incarcerations without trial. All eyes were initially on Ojukwu in order to ascertain his role, directly or indirectly, in founding of MASSOB. The wily ex-Biafran leader publicly stated his support for “Biafra of the mind” as he queried the wisdom of angling for a physical independent nation state to be carved out of today’s Nigeria. As if to further anchor his declared stance, Ikemba Nnewi contested for presidency of Nigeria under the auspices of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 general elections. It is clear that MASSOB is neither a militant arm of APGA nor is it being sponsored or funded by any Igbo mainstream politician of note, talk less the Ikemba Nnewi.

To the powers that be in Nigeria, MASSOB is an irritant of sort which they wish that would go away and never rear its ugly head again. The official government position is to treat anything that has to do with MASSOB as a crucial national security matter. On August 26, 2004, this group appealed to all Igbo living in all parts of the country to voluntarily stay home away from work and usual business activities as a show of their resentment for unfair treatment they get from the seat of power at Abuja. Frantic efforts were made by the government to discourage compliance with the sit-home plea. Even Ikemba and other notable Igbo political leaders were officially asked to intervene to avert what happened on 26th of August, but all that came to naught. The compliance with MASSOB’s sit-home instruction nationwide was both a surprise and an eye opener to many who are now scrambling to find explanations for this novel phenomenon as well as mute its significance. The controversial Ikemba was reported to have made a public comment that implied his support for what happened on August 26, 2004. This incident then provided the impetus for Nigeria’s state security agencies to step up their enquiry into a possible relationship that might exist between Ojukwu and MASSOB.

It is the prerogative of the government of the day to utilize all tools available to it to pursue the perceived security interests of Nigeria. There is, therefore, nothing abnormal in desiring to have an intimate chat with anyone about what one knows or thinks about MASSOB activities, including the contentious stay-home order. Agents of Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) were reported to have extended a personal invitation to Ojukwu to report to its Abuja headquarters for undisclosed reasons. Since there was no clarification on the substance of such invitation, it is not unusual that the invitee would have misgivings about the true intent of his guests once he has arrived Abuja. Based on precedents, Ikemba has already talked to Nigeria’s security agencies long enough for him to know when to follow his own personal instincts. Even less well-known citizens would have reservations about voluntarily submitting themselves to intense scrutiny by security agents without apparent cause. The fact is that Ikemba was not being suspected of any offense that the public was aware of at the time of his invitation by the SSS. Such invitation should thus be seen as casual, at best and the invitee should have no obligation to honor it.

Ikemba, after consultations with his political party and others, has elected not to honor the reported underhand invitation for him to report at Abuja SSS head office. It is entirely within his right to decline the invitation until there is further elucidation of why he must make such trip at this time. If, on the other hand, there are compelling security reasons for the authorities to talk to him, he ought to be duly informed through appropriate means. If mere having a chat with him is the matter, a mutually acceptable location could be arranged elsewhere, rather than insistence on Abuja. The Nigerian government must rethink its policy of regarding MASSOB and issues relating to Biafra and the Civil War as just security matters which can only be addressed through law enforcement methodology. Such a mindset is anachronistic in our new democratic dispensation. Nigeria and its government must stop running away from realities that the civil war era has brought to bear on the citizenry. Some people insist on convening a sovereign national conference (SNC) as the surest way to evolve a better future Nigeria. SNC, if ever convoked, shall be meaningless without first establishing a practical rational basis for providing acceptable and appropriate closure to the lingering anguish of the civil war era and its aftermath. Ikemba is a well respected politician, as we speak and whoever wishes to toss and tumble with him, at this juncture, should proceed with caution and decorum.

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